Sunday, July 30, 2017

#RWA2017

I just got back from RWA 2017. For those of you not in my writing world, RWA is the Romance Writers of America, and this was their national conference, held in Orlando, FL.

But to me, RWA stands for Really Wicked Awesome.

Why was this week so great? So. Many. Reasons.

First of all, I got to go and hang with my posse. My inner circle. My writing peeps who I talk with every day online, who are with me every step of the way, and I with them. It's extra special being able to actually see them, hang out with them, brainstorm with them, and laugh until you cry with them. These are my friends and seeing them for four days a year isn't nearly enough.
Melissa Baldwin, Becky Monson, and me at the RITA Awards

Taking the boat to Disney Springs. It's the only Disney experience I had the whole time because I was too busy learning.

Last day, so sad. :-(


Next, I got to meet in person people in my outer writing circle. People I've "known" online for years. Brainstormed with. Supported. Received support from. It's great to meet these people in person. A blogger who is very active in our of our groups drove two hours to have dinner with us all. How cool is that?
With the great Camille Di Maio from my Great Thoughts, Great Readers group



With Rochelle B. Weinstein, also from Great Thoughts, Great Readers. She let me give her a copy of Live for This to read. 
With my online buddy, Laura Chapman. I was so proud of her for doing the literacy signing! She's fantastic and I was so happy to finally meet her in person.

With the group from Chick Lit Chat. Blogger Kayla (Book Lover in Florida), Laura Chapman, JQ Abbey, Silvi Martin, Rick Amooi, Becky Monson, Melissa Baldwin, Jennie Marts, and me!



The cool aspect of the conference is that I get to meet big time authors. And most are soooo approachable and down to earth, especially when I'm acting like a spastic fangirl. Which, by the way, I excel at.
The Kirstan Higgins. I can't even. Still. 

Jennifer Probst is absolutely the coolest. I'd love to share a bottle of wine with her someday. I imagine alcohol would make me so much less of a bumbling idiot. Or not. 


My surreal moment of the conference came when an author approached me after I'd asked a question in a workshop to discuss the topic. We were talking branding, genre, and book covers and when I pulled out one of my books to show her what I was talking about she said, "Oh my God, you're Kathryn Biel!" Apparently, we write in very similar styles and genres, and my books appear in her metadata. To make it even more cool, when she showed me her book cover, I pulled out my phone to show her the screen shot of her book that I'd taken the night before as I was discussing cover options for my next book and said, "I want it to look like this!" This author and I decided we were destined to meet and to put our heads together to find the audience who want to read "mainstream fiction with romantic, comedic, and sometimes suspenseful elements." There's not a category for that on Amazon yet, but perhaps we can forge one.
Y'all need to check out Violet Howe! According to the data wizards at Amazon, if you like me, you'll like her too.


Okay, surreal moment number two. When I was giving my writing idol Kristan Higgins a copy of one of my books and she asked me to sign it for her. ME! When I told my daughter about it, she said, "Did you freak out?" Obviously, the answer is yes.

All the above aside, here's why the conference was awesome. I learned tons about my craft. About marketing. About running my own business. About how to write characters that will keep you up all night reading, laughing out loud, falling in love, and coming back for more. I stumbled into writing. I didn't know much, or anything, about it when I started. I didn't know to show and not tell. I didn't know characters have a flawed belief. I had no idea about internal and external conflicts or how to use action verbs to describe a character. Since I started going to conferences and workshops two years ago, I've learned so much.

There's also so much more I need to learn, to work on. I almost said to perfect, but I don't know that that's a reasonable goal, as I think this will always be an area in which I can improve. I've got pages and pages of notes to look through. I hope the information seeps into my brain, filling my subconscious as I sit down to write my next project. And every project from here on out.

Yes, this kind of conference is expensive. It means time away from my family. But RWA is so worth it. Compared to the wealth of knowledge and experience at this conference, I know nothing except this. If you are a writer, you should be going to classes and workshops to further your skills. I CANNOT stress this enough. GO TO WRITING CLASSES AND WORKSHOPS. There is a huge network out there of people willing to teach you, if you are only willing to learn. Only a fool thinks they have all the answers.

So now I'm home and I'm so tired I don't know where to put myself. My back hurts, my feet hurt, and my blisters have blisters. So while this was me at the conference:


And this was Becky at the conference:
Don't judge. I was so close to doing this on the last day.

This will be me for the next week as I try to absorb it all and write my best book yet:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

On Writing, Quilting, and Letting Go

I've written before about how I have a hard time letting go. And I do. If I let myself, I would always live in the past. But living in the past doesn't let you be present or anticipate the future. I can't say it's been a conscious effort, and I still love my 90s music, but I find myself more and more in the present. I started writing my first book about 6 1/2 years ago. I finished it 6 years ago this week, and titled it Good Intentions. Some of you may be familiar with it. At that time, I'd been married for almost ten years had two young kids (ages 7 and almost 4). I was slowly climbing out of the haze and daze of those yearly years of infancy, toddlerhood, bottles, diapers, potty training, pre-school, home ownership, home renovation, going back to school, raising a special needs child, and being a working wife and mother. I struggled to hold onto me.

As with most of my life, I was in between friends. I've always done that. Been good friends with a group, then drifted onto another group. At this time, when I began writing, I was in an in between time. I'd recently become better friends with someone I'd gone to high school with, and she was slowly becoming my person (and still is). Previous to this, I'd been friends with the pre-school moms. I'd been very close with my sister-in-law who suddenly cut me off and doesn't speak to me to this day. Prior to that, I'd had my college friends.

In college, although I did drift between groups, I was part of a group of five. We met freshman year, all living on the same floor in Rich Hall at Boston University. By the end of that year, I thought we'd be inseparable for the rest of our lives. But life happens and people change and even by the end of college (which was 5 years for 4 out of the 5 of us since we were getting our Master's), there were irreparable rifts. Not really because so and so did this or so and so said that. Just ... because. Life. Death. Relationships. Careers. Geography.
My favorite picture of my BU girls, on Spring Break in the Bahamas.

When I wrote Good Intentions, I waxed nostalgic about my time in Boston. The character of Maggie is loosely based on me, at least physically (none of the actual story line is true--it's all made up). The setting is absolutely based upon places I'd lived and been. At that time in my life, I was yearning for a better time. An easier time. And for me, that was college.

Fast forward 6 years and 10 books. My husband has been encouraging me to get rid of the stuff we no longer need. We've cleaned out the baby clothes and toys. Made countless runs to Salvation Army to donate furniture. It's hard, as I feel like I'm giving away my children's childhoods. So, when it came time to clean out my closet, I struggled with a massive pile of t-shirts I've held onto since my college days. T-shirts from sporting events. From orientation. From concerts. From Spring Break. The shirt I bought when I decided to go to BU. While I would occasionally wear one here or there, I certainly no longer need a massive pile. So I decided to make a t-shirt quilt. The plan is that it will go in my office, once my office is finished (we're finishing our basement and the now playroom will become my dedicated writing space).

So, over the past two days, I've been cutting and sewing my old t-shirts. I had to cut quickly, as the action of destroying these shirts that held such memories was difficult. But as I was pinning and pressing and sewing, I realized something. My latest novel, Once in a Lifetime, is about a group of five women reuniting 10 years after they separate. And, short of one small reference to a deplorable hotel condition while on Spring Break and a story about cheetos, there are absolutely no references, easter eggs, or actual tidbits from when I was part of a group of five.

Part of my quilt of memories
It made me pause, as this would have been the perfect time to draw on that time in my life. But I never thought of it. And instead of making me sad this time, thinking about the friends I've lost, I simply shrugged as the realization hit me. Times change. People change. Sometimes people are there for you. Sometimes, even though you might need them, they aren't. And while I still keep in touch with the girls, now they're more of people I used to know than people who I'm friends with. We're planning a get together this fall. I haven't seen anyone in five years. I think some of them still get together and are involved in each others' lives. I'm not sure I still fit in. I'm not sure I ever did.

I have other friends now. Different friends. Friends who I can't imagine my life without. Much like my BU friends. But still, when I look at the quilt, I'll remember the good times and the times that were woven into the tapestry of my life, making me who I am today.

My new tribe. Wendy, we need to get you in here too cause like it or not, you're in.
My best friend Michele--my person.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

I'm Becoming a Polygamist

Yup, it's true. I've become a polygamist.

A book polygamist that is.

I've always been a one-book at a time woman. I don't know what is up with me right now, but I've got three going, and want to be with a fourth.

I'm reading the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. I've read the first 3 books in the past 2 weeks and am waiting for #4 from the library. I really need it to come in quickly because, well, it's getting good. To whatever end.

Sigh.

Then there's the pool book I started. I kept it in the beach bag. It's a traditional romance, Everywhere and Every Way by Jennifer Probst. Well written and sexy. I feel the black moment coming. I hate the black moment.

Then, I'm beta reading the upcoming Whitney Dineen chick lit book. It was not what I expected, but it's super cute, and I can't wait to see what happens.

Then, I'm listening to Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid. But I can't stop thinking about Nico Freakin' Mangianello. I'm considering buying it because I don't want to wait until the next time I can listen.

Oh, and I'm writing two different stories and editing a third.

I have no idea what's come over me. I'm in need of an intervention. Please send me a pint of Ben and Jerry's Heath Bar Crunch ASAP.






Thursday, July 6, 2017

My Big Break...Or Not.

It only took a minute. Certainly not two. That rise of emotion. That burst of hope.

Staring at the information I'd copied down from the voice mail message, my brain whirring in a hundred different directions. I knew it was too good to be true.

But what if it wasn't? What if this was really it? My big break.

We hardly ever check our home voice mail. Today, my husband went through and listened. Our insurance agent, trying to get us to refinance our car. A car dealership. And then, a message for me. Someone seeking me out, looking to represent one of my books at an international book event. I made my husband replay the message and wrote everything down. I hadn't been listening the first time, and this time I did.

Quickly, I posted in a Facebook group for authors. Then a Google search. I had my answer. No need to return the phone call. A scam.

And that hope, which had only swelled for mere moments was dashed, anger flooding in to replace it. How dare they?

I work hard for my money. 9 1/2 months out of the year, I work a full-time job while being a wife and mother and author. I have 10 weeks off in which I dedicate to my kids and my writing. Only recently was I able to give up my summer job. And these people want to steal my money, playing on my hopes and dreams to make it into the big time.

I repeat, how dare they?

I may never be a NY Times Bestselling author. I know that the people I am reaching like my stuff and want me to continue. It is for them, and for me and my husband and my children, that I write. And I resent someone trying to steal from me.

So, for a few seconds I thought someone wanted to take this secondary career of mine to the next level. But they didn't. They were only out for themselves. You know what, when I make it there through my own hard work and determination, the success will be all the more sweet.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Four Years of Thankfulness

Four years ago, I began my journey as an independent author. Four years ago, as I chaperoned my daughter's Kindergarten field trip, I anxiously checked my phone and waited for those first few sales to start.

I had a goal. I had to sell 4 books to re-coup the cost I'd spent on the cover (yes, can you believe I paid money for that first awful cover).

I knew nothing. Absolutely nothing.

My book was woefully unedited. I had it edited. I changed the cover. I published a paperback, making it somehow real. I started writing my second book.

And I waited. It didn't sell much. More than the 4 books I needed, but not much more.

Then I learned. I networked, I listened, I worked. I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote.

In the 4 years since Good Intentions was published, I've released 9 titles (8 novels and 1 novella). I hope by the end of this year to have 10 novels out.

And I wouldn't be here without the support of so many. No man is an island, and certainly no one in the publishing industry truly goes it alone. I'm sure I will miss a few people (and my apologies if I do), but here are just a few who have made this possible:

Michele Vagianelis
Mary Rose and Philip Kopach
Patrick Biel
Karen Pirozzi
Becky Monson
Wendy Nagel
Melissa Baldwin
Cecilia Kennedy
Jayne Denker
Tracy Krimmer
Marlene Engle
Karan Eleni
Amy Buser
Laura Chapman
Cahren Morris
The ChickLitChatHQ Group
The Writing Wenches
Charlotte Lynn
Geralyn Corcillo

Thank you to each and everyone of you for your support these past four years. Thank you to all the readers who have purchased, read, reviewed, reached out, and encouraged me.

I'm sure I've missed a few. I'd like to think my writing has progressed since my first book. It's a good story, but I think I've evolved, and continue to evolve with every book. My sales and reviews have surpassed anything I ever dreamed of. My plan has changed to include writing funding my retirement.

If you haven't read my fledgling effort, take a chance on Good Intentions.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Holding On and Letting Go

It's a beautiful, sunny day. The windows are open, the kids are outside playing. The winter coats are hanging up. It's 60 degrees ... in February.

Before I can even question this gift that Mother Nature is bestowing, I'd best get to my point. After about eight or so years of threatening to work on our basement, my husband has actually started it. Long story short--we had a finished basement. Due to the incompetency of our contractors ten years ago, we lost it, having to gut it down to the walls and floor. The rebuilding process has not been speedy. In the meantime, that area has become a dumping ground and storage area. For the past six weeks, my husband has been cleaning out, which included several dump runs. Now, mind you, I've been asking him to get a dumpster for years because I knew we couldn't start work without cleaning out first. It doesn't matter who suggested it. All that matters is that it's getting done.

Except now my husband wants me to move on his timeline. I may or may not be biting my tongue when this sort of thing happens. One of my tasks is to go through the bins of baby clothes. I saved everything for the first five or six years of my son's life. He's now 13. I had good reason to save it--we didn't know if we were done. We're done. My daughter is nine, so we've been done for a while, whether we knew it or not.

But there's another reason for me to save. I'm sentimental, and I attach emotions and memories to things. My husband is not and does not. This difference makes it hard for us to find common ground at times. On the other hand, both my parents are savers (pack rats, semi-hoarders), and that's not a good situation either.

Take, for example, one of the boxes in my pile to clean out. It's mostly filled with liquor. Not a bad thing, right? Well, it was my grandfather's liquor that I cleaned out of my grandmother's cabinet when she sold her house. Almost 12 years ago. And my grandfather (who would have been 100 yesterday), has been dead for almost 28 years. So this liquor has been around for at least 30 years, but judging by the bottles, probably longer. So, I make the executive decision that I'm dumping the liquor and recycling the glass. I happen to mention this to my mom last night, in discussion of her father's 100th birthday. Later on I get a text from my mom. My dad wants the box of liquor, and I'm not to get rid of it. Something tells me that I'll be cleaning that box of liquor out of my parents' house in the future.

So, there are these bins of clothes. I did start giving clothes away after a certain point, so I guess this could be much worse. I'd say there are about 20 bins. I told my husband I'd reduce it to 1/3 of the current number. He doesn't remember that conversation. So I start bagging clothes. I can't look too closely or take too long, otherwise I won't be able to give anything away. I look at these small outfits and can picture the kids in them. I think of a simpler time, even though I probably didn't appreciate it. Back to the days where the kids' worlds revolved around me. Back to a time when I wasn't staring eye-to-eye with my son.

I joked with someone that I needed to watch a few more episodes of Hoarders to be able to complete this task. I'm sort of not joking. Nor am I poking fun at the people on the show. I can very much relate to the feeling of not wanting to give anything away because it means something. But I also don't want to live like that (and I want the basement finished someday this year).

I know that a tiny pair of shoes won't keep my kids little. A blanket won't make them need me like they used to. I have to force myself out of the past and to be in the moment, listening to them play outside on this gorgeous gift of a February day.

I'm passing the clothes on. To friends. To charities. I hope someone else makes as wonderful memories in these clothes as we did.

P.S.--I'm keeping four bins. Two for each kid. He wanted me to keep one bin total. Tough. I win.